On This Day … 14 December [2022]

People (Deaths)

  • 1991 – Robert Eddison, Japanese-English actor (b. 1908).
  • 1998 – Norman Fell, American actor and comedian (b. 1924).
  • 2013 – Peter O’Toole, British-Irish actor (b. 1932).
  • 2016 – Bernard Fox, Welsh actor (b. 1927).

Robert Eddison

Robert Leadam Eddison, OBE (10 June 1908 to 14 December 1991) was an English actor, who despite his lengthy career as a classical stage actor, is probably most widely remembered in the role of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). He also played Merlin in the BBC television series The Legend of King Arthur (1979), and the tragic ferryman in The Storyteller episode “The Luck Child”.

Eddison was an award-winning actor, known for his mellifluously resonant, baritone voice and long, lean 6′ 3″ figure. Throughout his 60-year career he was constantly in demand as an actor and worked with many of Britain’s greatest stage actors, often during the early formative years of their careers including Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith.

World War II

In 1940 he was called up to the Royal Navy, but officially became an enlisted man on 5 May 1941 and was trained at a naval establishment in Fareham, later moving barracks to Portsmouth. It was during a medical X-ray that they discovered that Eddison’s heart was on the wrong side of his chest, but it was the view that if it had not caused any trouble before that was no reason it should do now. He was on drafted to HMS King George V at Rosyth. He soon rose through the ranks, and was sent to the King Alfred regiment which was a training depot for officers. As a result, he was now able to wear the uniform of an officer (he enjoyed the fact that it was tailor-made by Gieves). One part of his officer training was to attend a knife and fork course in Greenwich where, as an officer, he would be taught, literally, how to use the utensils. He was then appointed to the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious as a Temporary Lieutenant. Upon arriving on board he was greeted by another Officer, Michael Hordern, who later also became an acclaimed actor. During his time there the ship was attacked by Kamikazi aircraft on Easter Day 1945. Eddison eventually spent three years aboard Illustrious, feeling very much “the man the admiralty forgot” as appointments were usually only for two years.

Ian McKellen later recalled one anecdote of Eddison’s wartime experience when he was performing the Gertrude Lawrence part in an officers performance of Coward’s Red Peppers and Fumed Oak: “After the show, the Petty Officer breathed heavily, what Robert always considered the best notice he ever had: “You know, Eddison, I never knew you were so f*g lovely!”

Eddison was finally demobbed in March 1946.

Norman Fell

Norman Fell (born Norman Noah Feld; 24 March 1924 to 14 December 1998) was an American actor of film and television, most famous for his role as landlord Mr. Roper on the sitcom Three’s Company and its spin-off, The Ropers, and his film roles in Ocean’s 11 (1960), The Graduate (1967), and Bullitt (1968), and Catch-22 (1970). Early in his career, he was billed as Norman Feld.

He studied drama at Temple University after serving as a tail gunner on a B-25 Mitchell in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

Peter O’Toole

Peter Seamus O’Toole (02 August 1932 to 14 December 2013) was a British stage and film actor. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company. In 1959 he made his West End debut in The Long and the Short and the Tall, and played the title role in Hamlet in the National Theatre’s first production in 1963. Excelling on the London stage, O’Toole was known for his “hellraiser” lifestyle off it.

Making his film debut in 1959, O’Toole achieved international recognition playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for which he received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for this award another seven times – for playing King Henry II in both Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favourite Year (1982), and Venus (2006) – and holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for acting without a win (tied with Glenn Close). In 2002, he was awarded the Academy Honorary Award for his career achievements.

O’Toole was the recipient of four Golden Globe Awards, one BAFTA Award for Best British Actor and one Primetime Emmy Award. Other performances include What’s New Pussycat? (1965), How to Steal a Million (1966), Supergirl (1984), and minor roles in The Last Emperor (1987) and Troy (2004). He also voiced Anton Ego, the restaurant critic in Pixar’s Ratatouille (2007).

National Service

Upon leaving school, O’Toole obtained employment as a trainee journalist and photographer on the Yorkshire Evening Post, until he was called up for national service as a signaller in the Royal Navy. As reported in a radio interview in 2006 on NPR, he was asked by an officer whether he had something he had always wanted to do. His reply was that he had always wanted to try being either a poet or an actor.

Bernard Fox

Bernard Lawson (11 May 1927 to 14 December 2016), better known as Bernard Fox, was a Welsh actor. He is remembered for his roles as Dr. Bombay in the comedy fantasy series Bewitched (1964-1972), Colonel Crittendon in the comedy series Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971), Malcolm Merriweather in The Andy Griffith Show (1963-1965), Colonel Redford in Barnaby Jones (1975), Max in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), and Archibald Gracie IV in the film Titanic (1997).

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